In the News.

TPI members are an elite remnant who make their mark well beyond their professional sports careers. See what our members are up to in the business world as part of the TPI community.

November 25, 2019

The Players’ Impact, a venture capital firm built for current and former pro athletes, has launched an online portal for its members to communicate with each other. Former New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston is a partner and managing director at The Players’ Impact. ...

The name of the internal digital platform is Global Locker Room, which is only shared with members of the TPI community. That community spans more than 190 professional athletes who are looking to invest in early-stage startups. TPI was founded by Tracy Deforge, who previously held business development roles at and the NHL.

"We wanted to create an online business environment that resembled the like-minded environment of a sports locker room experience—where athletes can communicate, strategize and prepare," Colston said in a press release. "The Players’ Impact and its Global Locker Room will be a huge advantage to athletes looking to build on their career earnings."

Colston’s transition from NFL player to entrepreneur was previously profiled in our Athlete’s Voice series. According to the TPI’s website, athlete-members at The Players’ Impact own an investment portfolio that includes stakes in companies such as DraftKings, brain health gaming platform Highmark Interactive, bone reconstruction company EpiBone, and sports equipment marketplace app SidelineSwap.

November 25, 2019

The Players’ Impact (TPI), a group that connects professional athletes to the startup ecosystem, is excited to announce the launch of Global Locker Room – a dynamic new digital platform for athlete investors and entrepreneurs. ... The Global Locker Room is an exclusive, logged-in experience for business-minded pro athletes (active, retired, and Olympian) within the TPI community seeking to achieve business success, preserve and build wealth, and leave a legacy beyond their sports career. TPI is led by early-stage growth/venture investment expert, Tracy Deforge, and former NFL wide receiver, Marques Colston, with the express purpose of connecting their members with the support, resources and leadership needed to help their business endeavors thrive.

“We wanted to create an online business environment that resembled the like minded environment of a sports locker room experience – where athletes can communicate, strategize and prepare,” said Marques Colston, Partner, Managing Director of The Players’ Impact. “Personally, I could have benefitted from having a trusted destination to learn, build a network and properly prepare to launch my business career when I was still playing. The Players Impact and its Global Locker Room will be a huge advantage to athletes looking to build on their career earnings.” TPI is a peer-led group dedicated to connecting elite athletes to a startup ecosystem by educating, coaching and reporting on early stage investments and business ventures. The fundamental mission of TPI is to assist athletes with preserving and building wealth by connecting them to elite investment opportunities and a world-class resource network. TPI works to provide athletes a method that allows members to back top investment opportunities together instead of each investing in more arbitrary ventures alone.

The members’ online portal is the first of many expanded membership features for TPI athletes investors and entrepreneurs. Other expanded membership features will include increased access to higher-level investments, a minimum of 20 per year, access to elite networking events and opportunities, access to business coaching and advisers, curated educational resources and more.

The Players’ Impact Launches Toronto Chapter to Support Athlete Investors
November 19, 2019

The Players’ Impact (TPI), an investment network for professional athletes, announced today the launch of its new Toronto chapter. ... Built exclusively for current and former professional athletes looking to preserve and build wealth, The Players’ Impact connects athletes to elite investment opportunities and enables them to participate in industry-leading, early-stage companies.

Active investor and recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductee, Hayley Wickenheiser, will lead athlete outreach and engagement for The Players’ Impact in Toronto. The Players’ Impact will also be working with Toronto’s bustling tech community to source new investment opportunities for athletes.

Overall, The Players’ Impact is home to a network of 200+ elite athletes from across the sports world, including current and former athletes from the NHL, NBA, NFL, WNBA and MLB, along with Olympians and collegiate players. Marques Colston, a 10-year NFL veteran and Super Bowl champion, is a partner and Managing Director of TPI.

“Toronto is home to hundreds of athletes who are business savvy and keen to put their earnings to work. Our resource network is designed specifically to support athletes in entrepreneurship, investing and business strategy,” said Tracy Deforge, Founder, The Players’ Impact. “We are thrilled to be officially a part of the Toronto sports community and look forward to working with passionate and driven athletes like Hayley to help foster their winning drive in investing and entrepreneurship.”

“The Players’ Impact has been an incredible resource in helping me focus my investments and channeling my competitive spirit into the business world,” said Wickenheiser. “Investing in several startups with The Players’ Impact has given me exposure and confidence as an investor. I am thrilled to help build a network of informed and engaged athletes who can take advantage of new and smart investment opportunities as they arise.”

The Players’ Impact portfolio of investments including DraftKings, Sideline Swap and Toronto’s High Mark Interactive.

Thuzio and the Players' Impact Announce Partnership
August 26, 2019

Thuzio and The Players' Impact (TPI) are partnering on an multi-market event series to connect Thuzio's... executive level membership community with TPI's sizable professional athlete community.

Thuzio is a sports events and media company, which produces a national event series featuring live interviews with sports icons in premium hospitality settings for a business membership community. The company will host 60+ member events across eight U.S. cities this year, including events at the Super Bowl, NFL Draft, NBA All-Star Weekend, and The Masters. Thuzio's membership base boasts seven of the top ten U.S. banks, six of the top ten U.S. consulting firms, and four of the top ten B2B SaaS companies. Thuzio was founded in 2012 by Tiki Barber (New York Giants), Mark Gerson (GLG), and Jared Augustine (Seamless/GrubHub).

"One of our visions for Thuzio is to better connect the business community with professional athletes and vice versa. Our event series is doing that in a unique and powerful way," said Barber. "Our community is comprised of successful and influential athletes, business people, and brands. We are often able to connect the dots by creating meaningful experiences and mutually beneficial opportunities for all parties."

Founded in 2017 by Tracy Deforge, TPI is a membership platform built exclusively for current and former professional athletes looking to preserve and build wealth. Membership includes access to collaborative investment opportunities, education, and business resources all within a peer network to help athletes grow their off the field endeavors. TPI also provides members with access to an extensive community of thought leaders, successful entrepreneurs, venture investors, industry experts.

Former New Orleans Saints wide receiver and Super Bowl champion Marques Colston joined TPI as a Partner in March and serves as Managing Director.

"We are excited to partner with Thuzio in our commitment to enhancing the value TPI provides to the athlete community we serve," said Colston. "Thuzio, as an athlete founded company, aligns perfectly with our mission, and this partnership will enable us to activate TPI in new markets alongside strong corporate partners."

In July, Thuzio launched an equity crowdfunding campaign and is currently raising capital to expand to 20 U.S. markets, develop its original content, and lead the category of "Live Sports Storytelling." For more information, visit

D.i.y. Private Equity is Luring Small Investors
July 19, 2019

Private equity funds have performed well in the last few years, returning 10 percent in 2018 alone, beating all other... indexes. That rate of return is attracting amateur investors who are setting up high-risk, high-return deals on their own.

These investors do not want to hand over millions to professional managers. In most cases, they are successful professionals who have adopted a do-it-yourself approach to private equity investing.

Dr. Keith Wright, a dermatologist in Atlanta, is part of a group of lawyers and businesspeople in the city who have been pooling their money for about six years in search of the outsize returns of private equity legend.

“It came from the boredom everyone felt with mutual funds,” Dr. Wright said. “When we started off, all we were looking for was a home run.”

Some investors seek to cast a wide net across several industries.Donald Prophete, a labor relations lawyer, is president of Omega Investment Partners, a group of eight investors in Kansas City, Mo., with money in several sectors, including autos, health care and real estate. “Five years ago, I realized I was in the wrong job,” Mr. Prophete said. “My calling was to be an entrepreneur.”

Professional private equity investors scoff at such weekend warriors.

“This is a sign of a hot market all around us,” said Matt Glaser, head of equity, nontraditional investments and research at Wilmington Trust. And that market is drawing armchair experts out of the woodwork.

Mr. Glaser said private equity investing took time and analysis for it to succeed. His team has been taking longer to make investments, fearful of overpaying for a private equity opportunity that may not perform well. His team is about to present a deal to clients, for example, that it had been researching for more than a year; typically, it would spend several months performing due diligence.

These amateur investor groups are another iteration of investment clubs that have popped up around the country for decades. Most of those clubs have sought to channel the collective wisdom of their members to do something that professional investors struggle to do full time. When putting money into public equities, investors have an out if things go wrong: They sell their shares on the stock market.

Private equity, by design, provides no such escape hatch. An investment in a start-up means investors get their money back only if the company goes public or is bought by someone else.

So do these do-it-yourself private equity investors stand a chance? They might, though a lot of work will go into it.

“I think all of these investors get that if it was easy, everyone else would be doing it,” said Alfred W. Coleman, a corporate partner at Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr in Minneapolis, who helped set up the funds created by Dr. Wright and Mr. Prophete. “But a good portion of what was driving this was access and control. They didn’t have access to these pools and investments, so they had to create it on their own.”

The key to success varies.

It starts with how they hear about deals, known as sourcing. Mr. Glaser said Wilmington Trust saw a lot of deals, given the size of its investment capital — $92 billion. But of the hundreds it looks at in any given year, the firm invests in about three. It puts $50 million to $100 million in each one.

Palm Drive Capital, a venture capital firm in New York, has invested in six unicorns, or companies with valuations of a billion dollars or more, since its founding in 2014, said Seamon Chan, managing partner at the firm. Palm Drive sometimes looks at hundreds of deals a week, all in the software industry, and passes on most of them, he said.

“When we are interested in moving forward with a company, it’s gone through a big filtering process,” Mr. Chan said. Even then, the group tries to negotiate the best terms for its investment. “We’re pretty valuation sensitive,” he said.

In this sense, individuals focused on private equity are at a disadvantage. Their groups are not going to see the best deals, but even if they did, they would not have the capital to invest at that level.

Mr. Prophete, the corporate lawyer, said the eight members in his group each put in $125,000 a year. With $1 million on hand, the group has access to a lot of deals, he said. The group has been active for about seven years.

The members rely on their contacts to find opportunities. “We have never not had a pipeline of deals,” he said. These deals are small, though, the type that large private equity funds would not consider.

Successful groups have members with deep expertise in their fields. Whereas a private equity fund can have scores of analysts who cover a wide swath of industries, small private investors cannot afford to take a scattershot approach.

Marques Colston, who played in the National Football League for a decade, is part of the Players’ Impact, a venture that draws on the knowledge of professional and elite athletes across many sports.

Mr. Colston has focused his investments on sports-related companies, including sports technology, performance and online gaming. “It was the industry I knew and could have a real understanding of it,” he said.

“We’re trying create opportunities around players transitioning out of sports,” Mr. Colston said. Members can invest $5,000 to $100,000 in qualified deals. “It’s an investment vehicle with the thesis that we’re looking to invest in companies where we can move the needle.”

This strategy has long been practiced by private investors at the next level up: the family office that manages money for high-net-worth individuals and typically has tens of millions of dollars to work with.

McNally Capital, a private investment firm based in Chicago, has been investing money for wealthy families for more than a decade. Its investments range from $20 million to $75 million in companies with values of $60 million to $200 million.

Ward McNally, managing partner at the firm, said he would not make an investment unless someone at the firm understood a company’s business firsthand.

“The whole thing revolves around improving your odds of success,” he said. “People are so focused on finding the next social media website to create value. You should invest your capital in a way you understand and really leverage who you are with what you know to create value.”

In these smaller funds, group dynamics matter. Personalities clash, and the more individuals who have a say, the harder the investment decisions can be to make.

John Rompon, managing partner of Marjo Investments, which makes private equity investments for wealthy families, said it was essential for one person to be in charge.

“The people not in charge are just making the decision to invest money in the fund,” he said. “It’s not a collective decision.”

Well-conceived documents can put guidelines for the fund in place. But what can seem logical and necessary at the start can have unintended consequences.

Dr. Wright said three people had left his group since it started, including the fraternity brother who had brought him in, but their money stayed behind. That was written into the fund documents up front.

“If you leave anytime before the 10-year horizon, you redeem nothing and you lose everything,” he said. “It’s painful, but it’s there to encourage you to stick this out.”

If members depart and an investment performs well, they still get nothing.

Mr. Coleman, the lawyer who has helped organize several small funds, said people really needed to consider the emotional component of investing in such high-risk, illiquid investments. The investments are relatively small, but the stakes are often high.

“It’s the difference between spending $30,000 on a new boat or car that’s tangible or an investment like this that you hope will pay off but could evaporate in a year,” he said. “They’re not seasoned money managers, and it’s money they don’t want to lose.”

When investments turn out well, there is a feeling of satisfaction from having helped a company that would have been overlooked by larger private equity funds.

“You move from the fanciful exit number and you start looking at the companies you’ve invested in and start caring for their mission,” Dr. Wright said. “You want them to have a viable company, and you look at the monetary return less.

The Players' Impact Announces new Partner, nfl vet Marques Colston and formation of athlete advisory board. Advisors, Garrett Klugh and Maurice Evans, Announced.
March 19, 2019

The Players' Impact (TPI), the leading early-stage investment and entrepreneurial platform for professional athletes, is excited to announce that 10-year NFL veteran... and Super Bowl champion, Marques Colston, has joined as a Partner.

"Marques brings a wealth of expertise and knowledge to TPI. His experience with early-stage startups along with his accomplishments as an athlete give him insight and perspective that will be of great value. I am excited to be working with him." –Tracy Deforge, Co-Founder, TPI

"TPI has always had the athlete's best interest in mind. I have seen the quality of TPI's work firsthand and I am excited to help the organization grow, evolve and continue to serve athletes at a high level." –Marques Colston

TPI is also proud to announce the addition of nine-year NBA veteran, Maurice "Mo" Evans, and Olympian Garrett Klugh to the TPI Athlete Advisory Board.

"As one of the first athletes to join TPI as an investor, I have seen the amazing work that this organization has done. I look forward to adding value as an advisor as the company enters its next phase of growth." –Mo Evans

"I am passionate about helping athletes make better decisions as it relates to being entrepreneurs and investors. TPI provides the platform to accomplish these objectives." –Garrett Klugh

As the TPI team grows, so too will the resources that athletes can find at TPI. TPI is currently developing a digital "Locker Room" for "all things startup," which will provide all the tools members need as they embark on their entrepreneurial and angel investing journeys. In addition to these offerings, TPI has recently launched "Beyond the Game" event series, which brings together athletes and industry executives to discuss and impart the foundations of entrepreneurship, investing and transitioning beyond professional sports. The next event will be at the NFL Draft in Nashville next month.

Tracy Deforge, TPI's Co-Founder, summarizes, "We are thrilled to add the expertise of Marques and look forward to the guidance from Mo and Garrett. With our new team, upcoming events and soon-to-be-released digital Locker Room, we are positioned to meaningfully impact the way athletes approach entrepreneurship and how they invest in startups."

TPI Presents Beyond The Game
January 2, 2019

What if you knew your career would be over in just a few years and there was nothing you could do about it? This is exactly the future every athlete faces, and whilst many... of us believe that athletes stay in the sporting system post retirement in either a coaching capacity or sports journalism role, the fact is less than 20% of athletes end up choosing this route. Instead, entrepreneurship is by far the most popular route for an athletes career post-retirement, yet entrepreneurship training is rare. A special Beyond The Game event (presented by The Players Impact) on January 9, 2019 in Las Vegas is seeking to improve this training.

Beyond The Game is a peer-to-peer based event centered on the Athlete Investor, the Athlete Entrepreneur and the Athlete in Transition. Athletes, more than ever, are doing business off the field, executing their ideas and investing in others. Participants will have the opportunity to engage in structured meaningful conversation with former athletes and executives who are experts in their respective post-athletic fields. The event will be co-hosted by NFL veteran and Co-Founder, Fan Controlled, Football League Ray Austin and Bonnie Bernstein, ESPN/CBS veteran and Founder, Walk Swiftly Productions. Featured speakers and Huddle hosts include Isaiah Kacyvenski, NFL Veteran, Investor and, Will Ventures Founder, Marques Colston, NFL veteran, Entrepreneur, Founder, Dynasty Innovation and Amobi Okugo, MLS player and author of Frugal Athlete.

The Beyond The Game concept was developed by The Players Impact (, a group of 100+ investment and entrepreneurial minded professional athletes investing in and building business together led by Tracy Deforge

The event will also see a first of its kind startup pitch competition for current and former athletes who have founded a startup. They will pitch in front of an audience of their peers. The winner of the competition will win coaching from Journey Partners, a guaranteed pitch for capital to The Players’ Impact community as well as a spot to present at the NYC Huddle (a group of sports industry executives who help startups via one intense half-day session).